Tales from the Tape: Run Defense

The Giants and their 32nd-ranked rushing offense, which featured a 31-year-old retread running back, ran roughshod over the Bears last week. We analyze the film to try and find some answers.

The New York Giants came into last week's contest ranked dead last in the league in rushing, averaging just 56.8 yards on the ground as a team. Yet you wouldn't have known that against the Chicago Bears, who gave up 123 yards on the ground in Week 6.

The most troubling aspect of the game was that Brandon Jacobs, a 31-year-old whom the Giants pulled off the street, was the player steamrolling over Chicago's defense to the tune of 106 yards and two touchdowns. If the worst rushing offense in the league, featuring a plodding ball carrier who was looking for work two weeks prior, can have success against the Bears on the ground, what is a good rushing team with a quality running back going to do to Chicago's defense?

At this rate, Adrian Peterson is going to break the single-game rushing record when the Bears head to Minnesota in Week 13, unless defensive coordinator Mel Tucker can somehow right the ship. It's going to be a tough task considering the substantial injuries to the club's defensive line but something has to be done if Chicago is going to have any shot at stopping opposing rushing attacks.

Let's break down the film from the Giants contest to find out where the leaks are and how the Bears can plug them.

PLAY I

On our first snap the Giants will run a counter right, with TE Brandon Myers pulling right for a kick-out block. The offensive line will crash left, which results in DE Shea McClellin (blue) sliding down the line.

Here we see the right guard and right tackle sealing DE Cory Woottton and LB Lance Briggs. McClellin is unblocked at this point and he continues to slide inside, as he believes the play is being run away from him. Yet Myers is heading his way.

McClellin is so far inside that Myers has no problem hooking him to the inside. Wootton also gets trapped inside, while Briggs gets pushed outside.

With McClellin sealed inside and Briggs shoved out wide, Jacobs has a huge lane through which to run and he picks up 16 yards.

PLAY II

This is an off-tackle run right at McClellin. Both Briggs and inside linebacker Jon Bostic shoot the wrong gap, and Wootton will be double-teamed at the snap.

As you can see, the linebackers have taken themselves out of the play and Wootton has no shot. This leaves just McClellin at the point of attack, yet Bear Pascoe, a tight end, is able to lock up Chicago's defensive end. McClellin cannot get off the block and watches Jacobs run right by him for a 13-yard gain.

PLAY III

The play will be off-tackle left. DE Julius Peppers will be double teamed at the point of attack. The players to watch are Bostic (blue) and DT Landon Cohen (yellow).

Notice how quickly Cohen gets sealed inside, as well as Wootton. FB John Conner will kick out on LB Blake Costanzo. The lane opens up in the B gap but Bostic rushes to fill the C gap.

Notice again how Cohen is no factor in this play and is now even farther turned away from the play. Bostic's outside pursuit forces him to cut back inside, which puts him right in the path of the pulling guard, who buries the linebacker.

You can barely see him but that blue arrow is pointing to Bostic, who is face down on the turf. As he's going down, Bostic manages to take Costanzo with him, which gives Jacobs a nice line off the left side. Notice where Cohen, the play-side defensive tackle, ends up.

PLAY IV

New York will run a counter trey with the backside guard and the fullback providing double lead blocks. The Giant are running right at Wootton and McClellin.

Even before Jacobs gets the handoff, Cohen, Wootton and McClellin have already been blocked out of the play. McClellin tries to shoot the gap but the tight end grabs him and drives him inside. Briggs is about to fill play-side but with two blockers heading right for him, he just needs to eat up bodies. The play here is Bostic's (blue) to make. If he can scrape hard into the C gap and blow up the play, the Bears will keep the Giants pinned in their own end.

First, the three yellow arrows indicate where McClellin, Wootton and Cohen are as Jacobs hits the line of scrimmage. Not good. Second, Briggs takes the easy way out and tries to slip past the blockers, instead of causing an explosion on the edge. This gives both lead blockers the opportunity to turn the corner and seal Bostic, who is far too passive in his attack, to the inside. Jacobs picks up 15 more.

PLAY V

This is a stretch right run with the Giants again running at McClellin, who is lined up across from the tight end.

Notice both Briggs and Bostic for some reason fill inside gaps on an outside stretch run. Wootton is one-on-one but he can't separate before Jacobs gets around him. Yet the worst player on the field here is McClellin, who is immediately sealed inside by Pascoe, the tight end.

Jacobs is turning the corner for a 12-yard gain and McClellin still can't get off his block, from a tight end.

ANALYSIS

The Bears have been handcuffed by injuries at defensive tackle. This has forced Wootton to play out of position at defensive tackle. Yet he lacks the size and strength to anchor inside. Wootton can be a good three-down defensive end but he's a very average defensive tackle.

Cohen is nothing more than a journeyman and the tape bears that out. He doesn't show any explosion off the ball and doesn't have the power to rip and shed blocks against the run.

But the biggest problem is McClellin, who has no business playing defensive end against the run in a 4-3. We saw it in college at Boise State and we've seen it since he's come to Chicago: McClellin cannot stop the run, even when matched up 1-on-1 with tight ends. In the previous series of plays he was repeatedly stymied at the line of scrimmage by Myers and Pascoe. This allowed the Giants offensive line to double down on the defensive ends and clear to the linebackers.

It's not McClellin's fault he's been miscast in his role but again, the coaching staff is out of options. Unfortunately for Bears fans that means McClellin will be on the field for many more run plays this year.

In film study, we also saw a lot of bad plays by Bostic. The rookie looked very hesitant and routinely took bad angles against the run. He's the club's starting middle linebacker going forward and he has a lot of potential, but as the film shows, he's going to make a lot of mistakes this year, many of which could be hard to watch.

If Stephen Paea gets healthy and continues playing at a high level, that will go a long way toward curing the Bears' woes against the run but he can't do it by himself. The "next men up" need to raise their level of play or else it's going to be a long season for Chicago's defense.


Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his third season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.

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